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Yaletown is an area of Downtown Vancouver approximately bordered by False Creek and by Robson and Homer Streets. Formerly a heavy industrial area dominated by warehouses and rail yards, since the Expo 86, it has been transformed into one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the city. The marinas, parks, high rise apartment blocks, and converted heritage buildings constitute one of the most significant urban regeneration projects in North America.
As with much of Vancouver, the Canadian Pacific Railway had a huge influence on the shaping of Yaletown. By the 1880s, the line had reached Yale, a then-large town and the former centre of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush 240 km (150 miles) to the east which served as the location of the company repair shops, and housed a sizeable rail worker population. As the line was extended to Vancouver, these Yale residents followed it to the city, and settled in modest housing close to the yards which was soon dubbed Yaletown.
As the years progressed, the proximity of False Creek and the railway meant that Yaletown became heavily industrial. Many factories, rail buildings and warehouses were built, many of which survive to this day.
After the real-estate boom and bust cycles of the 20th century, the area became shoddy and contaminated, and was bought up by the city. After the 1986 World's Fair (Expo 86), held on neighbouring former-industrial land, the whole area became ripe for development. The site was sold to a Hong Kong-based developer Li Ka-shing, setting in motion the redevelopment process which continues to this day.
Planning and architecture
From the start, the city planners imposed strict guidelines on the development, in particular requiring a substantial amount of development of the public realm, and sensitive preservation of existing heritage stock. In part, the city's adaption of new zoning plans in the Central Area Plan (1991) also aided in the process of rejuveation by establishing objectives of improving livability and provision for office space within Yaletown, as well as preserving its heritage structures. Thus there are generous areas set aside for parks, waterfront access, community centres, and schools. Along the shore of False Creek, the Stanley Park Seawall linear park has been continued through the area, forming its southern boundary.
While little or no original housing from the 19th century survives, several older buildings from the industrial days still exist. Hamilton Street and Mainland Street are the most significant, comprising two intact streetscapes from that era. They are lined with handsome brick warehouses built on rail platforms, many with cantilevered canopies. These have been converted into loft style apartments and offices, with boutique stores, bars and restaurants at the ground level. During the latter years of the dot com boom, these streets housed Vancouver's "multimedia gulch" similar to the SOMA area of San Francisco.
Nearby, at the junction of Davie Street and Pacific Boulevard, an old brick Canadian Pacific roundhouse has been converted into the Roundhouse Community Centre which uses the old engine turntable as a small outdoor amphitheatre. In another tribute to the rail history of the area, it also houses Engine 374, which pulled the first passenger train into Vancouver in 1887.
Spilling around the central core of Hamilton and Mainland Streets, most other architecture in Yaletown is newly built on the old derelict yards, the vast majority in a uniform glass and concrete high-rise style. Most of these buildings are apartment blocks.
The Aquabus and False Creek Ferries provide passenger service from Yaletown to various stops around False Creek, including Granville Island and Science World. Yaletown is served by the Yaletown-Roundhouse SkyTrain station of the Canada Line, as well as two "community shuttles," the C23 and C 21.
The Yaletown waterfront is also home to Elsie Roy Elementary School, the first new elementary school to be opened in an inner-city Vancouver neighbourhood since 1975. Yaletown is also home to a number of English language schools.
- Linda Baker (December 25, 2005). "Spurring Urban Growth in Vancouver, One Family at a Time". New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2007.